boyhood sublimations/ Japanese trainspotters

Jonathan M Hall jmhall at
Thu Sep 11 22:14:37 EDT 2008

Trains and train stations in Japanese films?  I can't believe the  
question is straightforward.  Is  Brian trying to seduce us into  
watching Otomo's  Steamboy (sigh!) or perhaps inaugurate the longest- 
running thread in KineJapan's dear history?  (Asking us about which  
Japanese films figure Japanese characters would have been just too  
obvious ... okay, I'm exaggerating here.)   But then again, it's such  
a fun question for another one like me who grew up with a freight  
train running right down the main street of my small American  
hometown twice a day.  (It was fun to watch during the daytime--and  
at night, as a little boy, I'd listen wistfully, awfully--as in awe- 
filled--from my bed to the rumble that shook our little city. )

Well, here are some of my favorites:

Wartime Train: Sanshiro Sugata's final scene--Sugata's subordination  
to moral order is matched by his containment within a train---and  
doesn't he even remove a piece of soot from his beloved's eye ...  
(now this was one year before David Lean's Brief Encounter---or am I  
confusing it with another film?)

Postwar Golden Trains:  Nakahira's great shots of the train station  
and platform and kiosks in Crazed Fruit  and Kurosawa's High and Low  
(that incredible action scene) and Dodeskaden (the phantasy trains  
that we never see, almost the inverse of Kinugasa's trains that we  
do)  are  beaten by the beautiful sentimentality of Noriko, Tomi's  
watch, and Kyoko's view of the train as it leaves Onomichi in Tokyo  

New Wave Trains: Violence at Noon gives us all kinds of trains: from  
the shinkansen--even fear of a murderer on a train--to the wild pans  
on a more local train as Shino and Matsuko (Koyama Akiko) head to a  
failed double-suicide--

Or how about the tunnel with no train ... in Kawase's Moe no  
Suzaku ... train as transport to a differently gendered world in  
Summer Vacation 1999

But now I've fallen for the question ... I must wrest my mind  
back.    I look forward to other's responses.

Jonathan M Hall
UC Irvine

On 11 Sep 2008, at 18:27, Brian Ruh wrote:

> Since reading this article [1] in the Japan Times, I've been  
> thinking about Japanese trains. (I love things like subway cars and  
> trains. I think it stems from growing up in a place where there  
> wasn't anything like that.) Can anyone recommend any good Japanese  
> films that prominently feature trains, stations, etc.? (When I try  
> a Google search on the subject, I'm inundated with results for  
> Densha Otoko.)
> Any time period or genre would be great. (I particularly like the  
> train scenes in Shinkai Makoto's "5 Centimeters Per Second" even  
> though they're animated.) Thanks in advance!
> [1]
> Best,
> Brian
> Brian's Essential Reading:

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